Category Archives: Candlesticks

I Greet You Well! By Mike LAWRENCE

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 This book contains twelve easy to read lectures packed with all manner of Masonic facts and information. Read at home to establish a good Masonic knowledge base or present to the Lodge on nights when you are without a candidate. Time tested and performed many times by the author, these thought provoking, fascinating talks will definitely incite discussion as they explore many of our more popular subjects by explaining the origin of some of our traditions and exploding the myths and legends of others.

With over 60 illustrations and ranging from 20 to 25 minutes in duration, the lectures were primarily designed to suit Freemasons of all levels of understanding and rank.

With titles including: Stealing History – Surviving History – Those Twenty Nine Words – English Accepted Masonry versus Scottish Non-Operative Masonry and Why the Knights Templar were not the Founders or the Custodians of the Secrets of Freemasonry; there is something for everyone.


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Harry Carr


Extracts from the modern Lecture on the First Tracing Board: Our Lodges are supported by three great pillars. They are called Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn, but as we have no noble orders in architecture known by the names of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, we refer them to the three most celebrated, which are, the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian.


The problems relating to the furnishings of the lodge do not end with Solomon’s two pillars. As early as 1710 an entirely different set of three pillars makes its appearance in the catechisms and exposures. They appear for the first time in the Dumfries No 4 MS, which is dated about 1710:

  1. How many pillars is in your lodge?
  2. Three.
  3. What are these?
  4. Ye square the compass & ye Bible.

The three pillars do not appear again in the eleven versions of the catechisms between 1710 and 1730, but the question arises, with a new answer, in Prichard’s Masonry Dissected:

  1. What supports a Lodge?
  2. Three great Pillars.
  3. What are they called?
  4. Wisdom, Strength and Beauty.
  5. Why so?
  6. Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn.

Almost identical questions appeared in the Wilkinson MS c1727, and in a whole series of English and European exposures throughout the eighteenth century, invariably with the same answer, “Three. Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn”. But the descriptions of actual lodge furnishings in the early 1700s do not mention any sets of three, and it seems evident that these questions belong to a period long before there was any idea of turning them into actual pieces of furniture in the lodge room.

Early lodge inventories are too scarce to enable us to draw definite conclusions from the absence of references to any particular items of lodge furnishings or equipment. While it is fairly certain, therefore, that the early operative lodges were only sparsely furnished, it is evident, from surviving eighteenth‑century records that in the 1750s there were already a number of lodges reasonably well equipped.

A set of three pillars was mentioned in the records of the Nelson Lodge in 1757, and the Lodge of Relief, Bury, purchased a set of three pillars, for WM, SW and JW, in 1761. To this day, the ancient Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel), No l, now nearly 400 years old, uses a set of three pillars, each about three feet tall. The Master’s pillar stands on the Altar, almost in the centre of the Lodge; the other two stand on the floor at the right of the SW and JW respectively. (The three principal officers, there, do not have pedestals.)

Masonry Dissected remained the principal stabilising influence on English ritual until 1760, when a whole new series of English exposures began to appear, all displaying substantial expansion in the floor‑work of the ceremonies, and in their speculative interpretation. Three Distinct Knocks appeared in 1760, and J. & B. in 1762, claiming to expose respectively the rituals of the rival Grand Lodges, “Antients” and “Moderns”. Both of them now included several new questions and answers on the “Three great Pillars” agreeing that “they represent…The Master in the East…The Senior Warden in the West…[and] The Junior Warden in the South”, with identical full explanations of their individual duties in those positions.

It seems likely that these questions were originally intended only to mark the geographical positions of the pillars, but in that period of speculative development the explanations were almost inevitable.


Apart from Prichard’s note in the 1730s on “large Candles placed on high Candlesticks”, the first evidence of a combination of these two sets of equipment (that I have been able to trace) is in the records of the Lodge of Felicity, No 58, founded in 1737, when the Lodge ordered “Three Candlesticks to be made according to the following orders Viz. 1 Dorrick, 1 Ionick, 1 Corrinthian and of Mahogany…”. In the Lodge inventory for Insurance in 1812 they had multiplied and were listed as “Six Large Candlesticks. Mahogany with brass mountings and nossils, carv’d of the three orders”. In 1739, the Old Dundee Lodge ordered a similar set, still in use today.


The connection is perhaps not immediately obvious, but these were the architectural styles associated with the attributes of the three pillars belonging to the Master and Wardens, “Wisdom, Strength and Beauty”. The Masonic symbolism of the three pillars had been explained by Prichard in 1730, and it is almost certain that these two Lodges were putting his words into practical shape when they had their candlesticks made up in those three styles.

These two early examples may serve as a pointer to what was happening, but it was not yet general practice, and early evidence of their combined use is scarce. But we can trace the sets of three pillars from their first appearance in the ritual as a purely symbolical question, in which they support the Lodge, and are called “Wisdom, Strength and Beauty”. Later, they represent the three principal Officers, in the East, South, and West. From the time when they were being explained in this fashion, c1730 to 1760, it is fairly safe to assume that they were beginning to appear in the Drawings, Floor‑Cloths or Tracing Boards. We know, of course, that they appeared regularly in the later versions, but the general pattern of their evolution seems to indicate that they were almost certainly included in many of the early designs that have not survived.

In the 1750s, and the 1760s, we have definite evidence (meagre indeed), that sets of three pillars were already in use as furniture in several lodges, and this adds strong support to the view that they had formerly appeared in the Tracing Boards. When, towards the end of the eighteenth century, the lodge rooms and Masonic Halls were being furnished for frequent or continuous use, the three pillars became a regular part of the furnishings, occasionally in their own right, but more often as the ornamental bases for the three “lesser lights”, thus combining the two separate features into the one so frequently seen today.


The growth in the number of symbols, as illustrated in the French exposures of the 1740s, and in the English versions of the 1760s, deserves some comment. In the Grand Lodge Museum there is a collection of painted metal templates, belonging apparently to several different sets. There are pillars with globes, a set of two small pillars without globes, and a separate set of three pillars. There is also a set of templates of “Chapiters and Globes”, i.e., headpieces only, clearly designed for adding the globes on to normal flat‑topped pillars.

All these, with many other symbols, were used in drawing the “designs” on the floor of the lodge. As early as 1737, when the “floor‑drawing” showed only “steps” and two pillars, it was a part of the Master’s duty to explain the “designs” to the candidate, immediately after he had taken the obligation. There appears to have been no set ritual for this purpose, and the explanations were doubtless given impromptu.

From 1742 onwards there is substantial evidence that the number of symbols had vastly increased, and this would seem to indicate a real expansion in the “explanations”, The Hernult Letter, 1737. See translation in Leics. L. of Research Reprints. No xiv.  Le Carechisme des Francs‑rnatons, 1742. and L’Ordre des Francs‑masons Trahi, 1745, and in the Frontispiece of a whole stream of English exposures that began to make their appearance from 1762 onwards. All three texts are reproduced in English translation in The Early French Exposures, Published by the Quatuor Coronati Lodge. No 2076. implying some sort of dissertation akin to the later “Lectures on the Tracing Boards”.

Many of these old symbols, which appear frequently on the later eighteenth‑century Tracing Boards and in contemporary engravings, etc, have now disappeared from our modern workings, among them the Trowel, Beehive, the Hour‑glass, etc, and it is interesting to notice that in the USA, where much of our late eighteenth‑century ritual has been preserved, these symbols, with many others, appear regularly on the Tracing Boards.


In this brief essay, I have confined myself only to a few symbolised items’ of our present‑day furnishings whose origins are liable to be clouded because of standardisation, but there is a whole world of interest to be found in the remaining symbology of the Craft.

Extracts from the modern Lecture on the First Tracing Board: Our Lodges are supported by three great pillars. They are called Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn, but as we have no noble orders in architecture known by the names of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, we refer them to the three most celebrated, which are, the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian.

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Harry Carr


The tradition that the globes on Solomon’s Pillars were covered with celestial and terrestrial maps is certainly post‑biblical, and appears to be a piece of eighteenth‑century embroidery to the ritual. We may wonder how this interest in earthly and heavenly maps arose, and there seems to be no sure answer. The early catechisms, 1700 to 1730, all indicate a growing interest in the subject, e.g.

  1. How high is your lodge?
  2. …it reaches to heaven…the material heavens and the starry firmament.
  3. How deep?
  4. …to the Centre of the Earth.

There are also the more frequent questions relating to the Sun, Moon and Master Mason, with subsequent variations and expansions. (See Knoop. Jones and Hamer. The Early Masonic Catechisms, 2nd edition, 1963, Sloane MS, 1700, p 48. Dumfries No 4 MS, 1710, p 62. And Prichard’s Masonry Dissected, 1730, p 162.) These questions may well be the first pointers towards the subsequent interest in maps, and the armillary sphere of 1745, noted above, carries the subject a stage further.

The Lodge Summons of the Old Dundee Lodge, dated c1750, showed three pillars, two of them surmounted by globes depicting maps of the world and the firmament. A certificate issued by the Lodge of Antiquity in 1777 displayed, inter alia, a similar pair of maps. The 1768 edition of J. and B. has an engraved frontispiece showing the furniture and symbols of the lodge, including two pillars surmounted by globes ‑ one with rather vague map markings, and the other clearly marked with stars. The various sets of geographical globes in pairs, described above (not “pillar‑globes”), all indicate a deep Masonic interest in the celestial and terrestrial globes during the eighteenth century.


Preston, in his Illustrations of Masonry, 1775 edition, in the section dealing with the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences, dwelt at some length on the globes and on the importance of astronomy and, of course, on the spiritual and moral lessons to be learned from them. All this seems to imply that the maps were beginning to appear at this time, in the verbal portions of the ritual.

The introduction of maps, “celestial and terrestrial”, led to a further development which eventually gave the Craft a phrase that has become a kind of hall‑mark of Freemasonry everywhere. The first hint of that expression appeared in l’Orde des Francs‑Magons Trahi, 1745, which added a new question to those passages in the catechism:

  1. And its depth?
  2. From the Surface of the Earth to the Centre.
  3. Why do you answer thus?
  4. To indicate, that Free‑Masons are spread all over the Earth, and all together they form nevertheless only one Lodge.

In 1760, Three Distinct Knocks (Antient’s ritual) altered the final answer very effectively:

  1. Why is your Lodge said to be from the Surface to the Centre of the Earth?
  2. Because that Masonry is Universal.

In 1762, J. & B. (Moderns’ ritual) gave the same answer, word for word. That is how we acquired the catchphrase “Masonry Universal”.


The biblical accounts of the casting of the pillars make no mention of their being cast hollow, although this may be inferred from the fact that, if they had been solid, their removal from Zeradatha and their final erection at Jerusalem would have been a quite exceptional feat of engineering. Jeremiah 3 v. 21, states that they were formed hollow, the metal being cast to a thickness of ‘four‑fingers’, but there is no suggestion that this was done so that the pillars might serve as “armoires”, or containers of any kind, or that Solomon used them for, storing the constitutional Rolls.

Here again is a curious piece of eighteenth‑century “Masonic embroidery”, and it seems possible that this was an attempt to link the pillars of Solomon with the two earlier pillars upon which “all the sciences” had been preserved. The earliest Masonic note I have been able to find on the subject is extremely vague. In 1769, Wellins Calcott wrote in his Candid Disquisition, p 66: “…neither are the reasons why they were made hollow known to any but those who are acquainted with the arcana of the society…” 

This was undoubtedly intended to suggest that the hollow pillars were designed to serve some peculiarly Masonic purpose, but Calcott says nothing more on the subject, and I have been unable to trace any such reason for hollow pillars in eighteenth‑century Masonic ritual.


Seventeen Masonic documents have survived, dated from 1696 to 1730, and they provide the foundation for our study of the evolution of the ritual. The earliest of them is the Edinburgh Register House MS (ERH), dated 1696, with a valuable description of the two‑degree system of those days. The last of that series is Samuel Prichard’s Masonry Dissected (MD), which contains the oldest ritual of the three degrees, and the earliest version of the Hiramic legend. In all these early texts the ritual was mainly in the form of catechism, and we get some idea of its development during those thirty‑five years when we compare these two documents. The first contains fifteen questions and answers for the EA, and two for the “master or fellow‑craft”. Masonry Dissected has 155 Q and A in all, i.e. ninety‑two for the EA; thirty‑three for the FC; thirty for the MM.


Twelve of the oldest rituals contain a question on the “lights of the lodge”: “…Are there any lights in your lodge, yes three…”[ERH, 1696] The lights soon acquire a symbolic character, but originally they were probably candles or windows, with particular positions allocated to them, e.g. “NE, SW, and eastern passage”, or “SE, S, and SW”, etc., until we reach MD in 1730, which says the lights are three windows in the E, S and W and their purpose is “To light the Men to, at, and from their work”. MD distinguishes between symbolical lights and “fix’d lights”, explaining that the latter are “large Candles placed on high Candlesticks”.

Symbolically, several texts say that the lights represent, “the Master, Warden and fellow‑craft.” Four versions say “Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” Three others say twelve lights, “Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Sun, Moon, Master‑Mason, Square, Rule, Plum, Line, Mell, and Chisel”.  All these are of the period c1724‑26.

MD says “Sun, Moon and Master‑Mason” and after the question “Why so?” he answers “Sun to rule the Day, Moon the Night, and Master‑Mason his Lodge”. So we trace the lights from their first appearance in our ritual up to the point where they acquire their modern symbolism.

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